Reports from the field indicate Chamilandu, one of the first elephants rescued by the Elephant Orphanage Project in Zambia and one of the orphans on our adoption program has recently been having her way with a wild bull!
Now 11, Chamilandu who was orphaned by poaching at only 1.5 years old, became the matriarch of the orphan herd and has been roaming her wild surroundings in Kafue National Park , most recently spending up to 80% of her time outside the boma in the evenings alongside fellow release-phase orphan, 9 year old male Batoka.
She was first observed ‘coupling up’ with a 20 years old male elephant a couple of weeks ago and poor Batoka has a wound on his rear which is likely to have been caused by the bull’s tusks as he considered Batoka a threat. At 6am the following day he appeared again outside the boma where Chamilandu had been spending the night and when let out she joined him. He also came back the following day. Oestrus cycles occur approximately every 15 weeks in elephants, but with so many instances of sexual mounting, it is possible that Chamilandu could be pregnant. Our first clue will come in January if she does not show any signs of oestrus after which, if she is indeed expecting and a long 22 month pregnancy, we may hear the patter of tiny elephant feet!
In 2008, DSWF established the country’s first Elephant Orphanage Project (EOP) with the aim of rescuing, rehabilitating and returning to the wild these innocent victims of wildlife crime. Today, over 30,000 African elephants are illegally killed each year for their tusks and the orphans keep coming. Our aim is to provide safety not simply for the young elephants to grow and gain strength but to ensure that the wild spaces they return to are protected.
With park protection and community outreach very much a part of the project blueprint our goal is to allow elephants and other wildlife to thrive and survive in Zambia’s wild spaces.
The project, now run by Game Rangers International (GRI), has two main sites, the Nursery Facility in Lilayi and the Release Facility in Kafue National Park:
The Nursery provides the round-the-clock care and attention that the young orphans desperately need as they recover from the trauma of losing their families. With each orphan drinking 2 litres of milk every 3 hours and the need for medical treatment the keepers stay on site 24/7.
When weaned, the elephants are relocated to the Release Facility in Kafue National Park, one of the largest parks in Africa, where they begin the re-wilding process, taking long and regular walks into the bush and browsing in the safety of the outer boma. It is here that they come into contact with the wild herds that they will one day rejoin.
Chamilandu pictured earlier this year